Moments of Nil by Flora Tavu

a nutshell: gathering poetry & short stories side-by-side, this is an accumulation of thoughts from Brunei-raised writer Flora Tavu

a line: “leave us cold with the coldness of lost hopes and dreams raining down our sanity” – ‘Unthink’

an image: a disturbing reference to a chopping board recurs throughout the pages – the first time it appears is in ‘Lullaby’, a disconcertingly gentle title for a poem that includes blood-spattered walls

a thought: on the inside flap, Tavu expresses her hope that after reading this, a reader would be able to know the person that she is – a vulnerable statement of self-exposure given the subject matter that follows

a fact: the contents of this book were written over the span of a decade and half, 1998 – 2012; at times Tavu’s mind would go blank – from three days to three months, even a year – then at other times the writing would rush out like a hurricane, she shares

want to read Moments of Nil? visit here

The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada (tr. Chris Andrews)

The Wind That Lays Waste

a nutshell: this highly charged, palpable prose is ignited by the sparks thrown off a heady encounter between a preacher, his daughter, a mechanic and his assistant in the wilds of northern Argentina

a line: “But Leni has no lost paradise to revisit. Her childhood was very recent but her memory of it was empty.”

an image: I found the omniscient narrator’s passage about the reverend’s sermons deeply unsettling, with the escalating intrusions of Christ’s tongue, finger, tongue until the climactic disgorging of the slimy black Devil-infused fabric

a thought: through its potency, this story carried me into a world profoundly different to the one I inhabit – immersing me for several hours in belief systems & ways of life so far from my own (a very useful exercise given how much time I spend in a filter bubble)

a fact: according to a 2017 survey, 76% of Argentina’s population is Christian – 66% Roman Catholic, 10% Evangelical Protestant; last year’s failure of the bill to legalise abortion highlighted the enduring power of the church in Argentinian politics

 

want to read The Wind That Lays Waste? visit here

[PS. big thanks to Charco Press for the copy!]

Luisa in Realityland by Claribel Alegría (tr. D J Flakoll)

a nutshell: flitting between poetry & prose vignettes, this short autofictional book conjures Alegría’s mystical, occasionally haunting memories of her early life in El Salvador

a line: “Any psychoanalyst would tell you that you’re horribly envious of Chagall”

an image: Luisa refuses to take home a bird from her childhood friend, saying her grandfather believes birds should be free – the boy then reveals, twisting his bare & dirty toes, that his mum is planning to cook her as they have nothing but the bird to eat

a thought: in its afternote, the book mentions that the author has long been an outspoken advocate of the liberation struggle in El Salvador and Central America more widely – this comes across in the later stages of the book, particularly through the poetry

a fact: Alegría was born in Nicaragua but when she was nine months old her father was exiled for protesting human rights violations during the US occupation, so she grew up in Santa Ana (western El Salvador) where her mother was from and considered herself Nicaraguan-Salvadorean

 

want to read Luisa in Realityland? visit here